11 August 2007

What's your company's signature tune?: Coffee and Donuts/Sep 06

What’s your company’s signature tune?

One “vision” commercial on television or a “corporate campaign” in Business World does not a “corporate brand” make – any more.

The making of a Corporate Brand today encompasses the Vision Brand, the Product Brand, the Service Brand, the CEO Brand, the Employee or Internal Brand, the Stock Market Brand, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Brand, the Sponsorship Brand and even the Internet (Website) Brand. (And to push the point home, even the signature tune brand!)

While many Indian companies have indeed created new paths and tried new ideas, the totality still begs best practice, and surely calls for the CEO to take on the mantle of Marketing Manager, Corporate Brand. The key lies in finding that ONE WORD that’s at the heart of what your company stands for.

The Infosys way
The now omnipresent Infosys, if you think back, actually first captured our imagination with its Employee Brand and the Stock Market Brand by making potential crorepatis of its many twenty somethings. The CEO Brand came later, and it helped to have a wife who took on the building of the CSR Brand. The corporate “image” of Infosys has really been built without having to resort to corporate “campaigns”. The company keeps its advertising to the appointment pages, celebrating its Employee Brand.

The ITC way
ITC on the other hand has leveraged every building block. Working for you, Working for India says the Vision Brand. Enduring value – For the shareholder, For the nation… One of India’s Most Valuable Corporations says the Stock Market Brand. E-chaupal became the Service Brand. With ideas like Mera Gaon Mera Desh they spruced up the Employee Brand. Citizen First encapsulates the CSR Brand. Concepts like Triple Bottom Line build the CEO brand (if at all it needs building!). And of course, the lifestyle stores and the atta and the oil and the candies do the rest.

Corporate brand expressions:

Expressing the CEO brand: The Kingfisher way - Vijay Mallya signs a statement saying “I created a product for you that is better than what I would have created for myself”, unleashing the power of the CEO brand.
Expressing the employee brand: The Marico way - By showcasing the endearing young man who approves his own business plan, Marico enters the arena with the Employee Brand.
Expressing the CSR brand: The Mindtree way - By getting its logo created by a challenged child, Mindtree launched itself uniquely through its CSR Brand.
Expressing the activist brand: With ‘Narmada’,Aamir announced the birth a new celebrity activist brand.

Defining the Vision Brand.

When going in search of the Vision Brand, companies need to go beyond the Who We Are and What We Make, search deeply for a truth, and answer the question “what are we actually in the business of?” And find that single most important value, that one idea, that ONE WORD that captures their spirit.

Let’s take a look at a few of the Vision Brands that have managed to zero in on that one word. HP: invent. Microsoft: Potential. HCL: Guts. Honda: Dreams. Philips: Simplicity. LG: Inventive. These companies have looked beneath the “touching many people in many ways” theme, the “improving your life” theme, the “we have been around for 50 years” theme. And have gone beyond the many generic serving India, spreading India, changing with India etc themes – which is very tempting to do, specially when you have been quiet for a while and need to arrive like a leader.

Experts like Ian Buckingham, Philip Kitchen, D Schultz, J Walters, Tim Hazelhurst have written about the tenets of a corporate brand and the role of the CEO. A few quotes here from some of them.

Queries that the corporate brand need to answer in order to be perceived as authentic by consumers:
what the parent company does versus the promises it makes?
what it does not do?
what values it personifies ?
the culture it perpetuates
the personalities running the company
how they treat employees globally ?
whether or not they are good corporate citizens?

The top traits of companies that employees would like to work for are:
the promotion of trust
the empowerment of employees
the inspiration of pride.

Corporate branding tenets for the CEO
• Corporate reputation has increased and is still increasing in importance
• The need to systematise measurement of corporate reputation externally and internally is also
growing in importance
• CEO reputation and corporate reputation are increasingly intertwined. The CEO is, by definition, the chief communicator. The ability to engage stakeholders with the company vision and mission is crucial
• The need to manage reputation globally is a key management responsibility. Led by the CEO, it must also be
managed in an integrated manner throughout the business
• CEOs can epitomise social values that offer benefits to corporate growth and progression
• Internal communication should be considered a professional discipline of equal status to its
external counterpart.

Coming back to advertising,
When does the need for a corporate campaign arise?

Organisations planning quantum leaps in turnover.
Organisations that have aged and need reinvention or have been overtaken by newer entrants who have taken mindshare higher than their market share.
Organisations going through an emotional low and needing re-energizing.
Challenger organisations that need to be seen as better than the big, for being small.
Organisations coming together in mergers and acquisitions and needing a new anthem.
Organisations breaking away and creating new entities.
Groups of companies that together form another entity and want the advantage of belonging to a larger business house.
Multi product companies wanting to leverage the many parts to make a greater whole.
Business to business brands and technology companies that have long sales cycles.
Brands with CXOs as target audiences.
Companies seeking capital.
North India brands wanting to make inroads into South India. Or South India brands wanting to make inroads into the North.

In fact, increasingly, it looks like no one can escape this. Sooner or later, every company needs to take a good, hard, close look at its Corporate Brand.

The emerging Best Practice sequence

1) Finding that One Word. Being clear about the support, resolving doubts on the gap between vision and reality, if any.
2) Finding Brand Champions to spread the word internally. Not just announcing and “distributing” the Vision Brand internally, but involving employees in understanding and owning the business implications. Establishing that it is inspiring and actionable at the same time.
3) Incorporating and translating the Vision into measurable practices and behaviour, and performance metrics for every individual, group or department.
4) Being aware that you have to separately build the CEO, the CSR, the Product, the Employee, the Stock Market Brands. Find ways of running the same thread.
5) Finding ways of measuring ROI, in ways that go beyond run-of-the-mill qualitative and quantitative market research methodologies, and aim to integrate financial measurement.

Read the original article here http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/catalyst/2006/07/27/stories/2006072700150200.htm

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